Whilst the start of the next football season is still over one month away, you can get an early glimpse of how many top-level teams are shaping up. This is because 2019 sees the return of the Asia pre-season tour for UK Premier League sides like Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. In addition to this, there will be appearances from European teams like Juventus and Paris Saint Germain at some Asian cities within the next month.
So if you want to get a good indication of how top teams like Chelsea and Barcelona are planning to start their 2019/20 campaigns, then there’s no better place to look than by paying attention to the this summer’s Asian footballing tournaments.
Which football teams will be in action in Asia this summer?
Football fans in China, Japan and Singapore can look forward to seeing some of the world’s best teams over the next month. There will be a host of Premier League teams making an appearance with the likes of Manchester City playing in Hong Kong, as well as competing in the Premier League Asia Trophy where they will take on the likes of Newcastle United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United.
In addition to this, Chelsea will be playing a couple of hugely anticipated matches in Japan, whilst Tottenham Hotspur will be making an appearance in the International Champions Cup Shanghai.
But there’s also plenty of room for many of the biggest football teams from mainland Europe. Barcelona will be heading to both China and Japan for their summer tour, whilst Singapore can look forward to hosting Italian legends like Inter Milan and Juventus. There will also be time for top French sides like Paris Saint Germain and Rennes to show their skill in front of Chinese crowds at the Trophee des Champions.
We should also mention the fact that Australia isn’t exempt for from this pre-season touring spectacle. Residents in Perth can look forward to a thrilling encounter between Manchester United and Leeds United.
Sadly, some top European teams have backed out of the Asian pre-season schedule. Bayern Munich were meant to have been playing in the Allianz China Cup in May but this tournament has been indefinitely postponed. Similarly, Liverpool have defied expectations of booking an Asian tour and will instead be playing some warm-up games in America instead.
All about the Premier League Asia Trophy
You can get an early dose of English football action by checking out the Premier League Asia Trophy. This tournament kicks off in China on 17 July, and it will see the likes of Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United and West Ham United competing in the two-day contest.
The biennial competition will take place in the Chinese cities of Nanjing and Shanghai. Nanjing will host a match between Newcastle and Wolves in the afternoon, whilst Manchester City take on West Ham in the evening. The winners of these matches will play in a final at the Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai on the evening of 20 July.
The Premier League Asia Trophy takes place every two years to avoid clashing with the World Cup and Euro tournaments. Whilst Liverpool won the previous edition of the tournament, Chelsea are the most successful club having won the Premier League Asia Trophy two times in its 16-year history.
The 2019 International Champions Cup comes to Asia
The International Champions Cup has earned an excellent reputation for bringing top European football to a variety of locations all over the world. For much of the 2019 International Champions Cup, many of the matches will be played in cities in the USA. However, there are handful of matches that will be played in Asia that are well worth taking note of.
The National Stadium in Singapore will see some quality European football. The action starts on 20 July with a match between Manchester United and Inter Milan, and the following day football fans will get to see Juventus taking on Tottenham Hotspur.
There’s also some great footballing action coming to China. The Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre will host a fascinating Italian football clash between Juventus and Inter Milan on 24 July. Plus anybody attending the Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai can look forward to a thrilling showdown between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur on 25 July.
Welcoming PSG and the Trophee des Champions to China
The Trophee des Champions is a tournament where the winners of Ligue 1 and the French Cup get to play each other. In the past decade, this competition has moved from France to being played in places as far reaching as Canada and Gabon.
However, last year the Trophee des Champions was held in the Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzen in front of 41,000 fans, and it will again be hosted at this stadium on 3 August in 2019. Unsurprisingly Paris Saint Germain have won the last six editions of this tournament, and they will be looking for sweet revenge when they take on Rennes who shocked PSG in the domestic cup final.
Paris Saint Germain will be carrying out a full Asian tour from July 24, and they will take in cities like Macao and Suzhou on their way to Shenzen. Macao will see PSG playing Inter Milan on 27 July, whilst the French team will take on the La Liga side Espanyol in Suzhou on 30 July. Whether the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are part of the squad remains to be seen, but it promises to expand the PSG brand in the lucrative Chinese markets.
Details of Barcelona’s Asian pre-season campaign
Barcelona clearly aren’t like most football teams, and so it’s not too much of a surprise to find that they are foregoing the standard Asian football tournaments. Instead, the Spanish legends have booked themselves their own tour that marks their first time in the continent since 2015.
This will see Ernesto Valverde’s team appearing at cities in Japan and China, and they will be in action against Vissel Kobe on 27 July. This promises to be a fascinating game as the Japanese team have the ex-Barcelona legend, Andres Iniesta in their ranks alongside other club stars like Sergi Samper and David Villa.
This match is part of the Rakuten Cup and Barcelona’s first game will be against Chelsea at the Saitama Stadium in Tokyo on 23 July. Chelsea will also play against Kawasaki Frontale at the Nissan Stadium on 19 July, whilst Barcelona are expected to play a handful of games in China.
Why are top European football clubs so keen to come to Asia?
With football clubs becoming increasingly commercialised and taking steps towards becoming full-blown entertainment brands, it’s been interesting to see how they have aimed to expand their global markets. With the increase of interest by Asian countries in football, there’s been something of a gold rush amongst European football clubs to take advantage of this new market.
Until relatively recently, Asia has been a relatively untapped market for European football clubs who are attempting to exploit their brand names. But with teams like Barcelona being thought to have well over 47 million fans in China alone, it’s clear that more of an effort is being made to cater to the Asian demographic.
Barcelona have even set up their own sporting complex in Hainan and have established the Barca Experience in Haikou. These venues form the sites of special tournaments such as the Barca Academy China Cup that attempt to cater to 16% of the club’s global fanbase.
We’ve also seen big regional sponsorship deals between European clubs and Asian brands. Borussia Dortmund teamed up with the Chinese bike-sharing brand Ofo, Manchester CIty partnered with the Chinese PAK lighting, and Liverpool established a deal with the Thai coconut water company, Choakoh.
There’s also been the rise of the official club shops in various Asian cities. Paris Saint Germain have their own club shop in Singapore, whilst Manchester have their own retail outlet in Japan. Arsenal have made plans to create their own branded sports bars and restaurants in Shanghai and Beijing, and Real Madrid will be opening their own theme park in China.
Could Asia become the next footballing powerhouse?
Whilst these plans could be looked at as being nothing more than money-grabbing exercises, it’s clear that they are helping stoke interest in football in Asia. Teams like Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have millions of followers on the Chinese microblogging site, Weibo, and this enthusiasm is slowly translating into the Asian football itself.
With national teams like Japan and China starting to improve their performances in tournaments like the World Cup and the Women’s World Cup, there’s plenty of room for optimism. Plus with outstanding players like Son Heung-min lighting up the Premier League, it seems that something special has begun.